Not willing to let the Christmas spirit dissipate, I looked to a friendly curmudgeon to keep the fires burning. Garrison Keillor’s A Christmas Blizzard could become my required annual reading – a modern and funny replacement for “The Christmas Carol.”
Grounded by a blizzard in Looseleaf, North Dakota, his old home town – on his way to his ocean-side estate in Kauai – James Sparrow, a self-made billionaire, decides to avoid his family and spend Christmas in cousin Floyd’s ice-fishing shack on the frozen lake. As the night progresses, he meets Ralph, his dead boyhood friend, who appears as a wolf to guide him through the night. With a tip of his hat to Dickens, Keillor has Sparrow continue the night, trying to cure his neuroses, while dealing with an assortment of unworldly characters: an old woman with wild hair who gives him twenty-four hours to get his act together, Cousin Liz who invites him to jump into the frozen lake with her – naked – curing his fear of frozen pump handles, and a wise Chinese man, who shows him the way…
“Small selfless deeds engender tremendous force against the darker powers…small gifts of goodness – this is what save the soul of man from despair…”
Sparrow suffers through a family Christmas dinner – you might want to skip most of this – that climaxes when the undercover FBI agent, masquerading as Liz’s husband, pulls out his gun. Mrs. Sparrow arrives in the nick of time to provide an unusual escape.
Like Scrooge, Sparrow has his epiphany, and his world is better for it.
If you appreciate Keillor’s brand of wit, and can gloss over his many run-on sentences to pick out his creative politically incorrect skewed commentary, this story will have you laughing; if not, you might want to stick with Dickens.